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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow Memories come with discovery under the bleachers at BMS

Memories come with discovery under the bleachers at BMS

Bill Fulton, 78, doesn’t recall losing his wallet in 1946

With a knock on his door last Thursday, 63 years of memories came rushing back at Bill Fulton.

Prompting those memories was a trio of items Fulton hadn’t seen since 1946 — a leather billfold, an outdated Social Security card and a bicycle license.

A week later Fulton, 78, is still trying to process the whole situation.

“That was quite a deal,” he said earlier this week, shaking his head in disbelief.

The “deal” started on the afternoon of June 18, when Baker Middle School secretary Melanie Trindle arrived on his doorstep.

 “She said, ‘Are you Bill?’ and I said, ‘Yes.’ And then she said ‘Is this yours?’ ” Fulton recalled, moving his right arm away from his body as if he were handing something off.

It took Fulton a moment to recognize what Trindle had just placed in his hand.

 He hadn’t seen his leather billfold since he was 15.

“He was pretty much amazed,” Trindle said. “He just kept saying, ‘Thank you. Thank you so much.’ ”

Fulton, who had been washing dishes when he heard the knock, examined the wallet.

The leather remained quite smooth. The cowboy design on the front was unblemished. The zipper moved without a hitch.

Fulton pinched the zipper’s gold tab and guided it around the perimeter of the billfold, eager to see what was inside.

After 63 years the contents were precisely as he left them when he unknowingly dropped the wallet behind the balcony bleachers in Baker Middle School’s gym.

Fulton doesn’t remember losing the wallet.

He had in fact completely forgotten about the billfold until worker Nathan Osborne found it while removing the bleachers for renovations on June 17.

More than a half-century later Fulton’s Social Security card and bicycle license,  bearing his address on Auburn Avenue, where he lived during his teenage years, were positioned in their respective compartments, apparently untouched and unseen since the year after World War II ended.

“My golly,” Fulton said with a slight smirk, “I still can’t believe that showed up like it did.”


While Trindle handed the wallet to Fulton, that wasn’t all she delivered on that sunny afternoon.

She also gave Fulton a rare chance to reflect on his life.

“I’ve been thinking pretty strong about it,” Fulton said.

“Sixty-three years back in history is a long time. I’ve covered a lot of country since then.”

Actually Fulton has covered several countries since then.

Following his days delivering medicine on his bicycle for Rodamar Drug, which is why the license found in the wallet was necessary, Fulton enlisted in the Army.

He started when he was 18, and if you ask him today he will promptly tell you that he served five years, three months and 14 days from 1949 to 1954.

Fulton served in Korea in 1950-51 before coming home and then heading to Berlin prior to construction of the Berlin Wall.

And although he chuckles when telling some of his war stories, he makes it clear that the experience was far from pleasant.

“I feel bad for the kids that have to go today,” Fulton said. “It was a hell.”

With his military days behind him, Fulton returned to Baker City, where he has lived since he was 3.

He turned his attention to making a living for himself and two children, Anita and Steve.

Fulton worked at Oregon Lumber Company in Bates until that mill shut down, and then at Ellingson Lumber Company for 30 years, from March 1964 to April 1994.

Since retiring Fulton has enjoyed spending time with his 11-year-old black lab, Smokey, a dog he praises immensely.

The two often hike the mountains near Baker City, and Fulton likes to fish and hunt, primarily for deer, elk and game birds.

“When I can get a tag,” he said.

This tranquil lifestyle has been the status quo for Fulton for a number of years, and so Trindle’s knock on the door induced a slight ripple in his otherwise placid life.

“It’s been a while since he was that excited,” said his granddaughter, Jackie, who spoke to him on the phone about the wallet the night Trindle stopped by. “He’s one of those people that hides his excitement.”

The recovered wallet has prompted Fulton to reflect and consider times he hadn’t thought about for many years.

But it has also brought him wonder.

“Where did all the time go?” Fulton said with a deep sigh. “It’s hard to believe that the times have gone so fast.”


Middle School Principal Mindi Vaughan said the brown pine bleachers were connected to the gym balcony’s brick wall and had remained in the same place since the school, known as the Helen M. Stack Building, opened in 1936.

Fulton said he was probably sitting on those bleachers in 1946, cheering for the Baker High School Bulldogs with a group of friends, as was common for him as a youngster.

(Fulton was a high school student in 1946, but the BHS basketball team played at the middle school gym in those days.)

“I’ve been trying to go back to remember where I lost it, but it hasn’t come to me,” Fulton said with a look of slight frustration. “I must have lost it at a ball game. A bunch of us used to go.”

In the 1960s Fulton said he returned to the BMS gym to watch another basketball game. It’s likely that he was probably within a dozen or so feet from his old billfold that night.

Both of his children attended BMS, so they too must have come within arm’s reach of their dad’s wallet during sporting events, assemblies and even gym class.

As preparations are being made to use the balcony in the gym as a cafeteria — part of the consolidation as the other BMS building, the Central Building, is being closed due to budget cuts — other items were discovered.

Homework, library books and programs from sporting events top the list, but none compare to the meaningfulness of a certain leather billfold that had gone astray.

And none of those items spurred such a story of serendipity.

When Osborne, a maintenance worker and bus driver, brought the wallet to Trindle last Wednesday, she didn’t know at first what to do with it.

Some suggested she contact the police, but Trindle decided to poke around a bit first.

“I started thinking that he might still live here,” Trindle said.

After a little digging, Trindle came across an address for a William Fulton on Court Avenue.

The address looked familiar to Trindle. Then, suddenly, it came to her: It’s close to where her best friend, Sheila Hill, lives.

Trindle called Hill to find out if there really was a William Fulton near her house.

Hill’s response: “Yes, right across the street.”

With that, Trindle was confident enough to drive to Court Avenue and present the wallet to the owner.

And when she arrived the only person more surprised about the improbable series of events was Fulton.

“He never expected me to show up on his doorstep with that wallet,” Trindle said. “It must have just been that I knew the neighbor across the street. It’s funny how things fell into place.”

Fulton might use the word baffling rather than funny to describe how it all unfolded.

And while he is still trying to fit all the pieces together, Fulton wonders about just one piece that happens to be missing after more than 60 years.

“The only thing I was thinking back on and wasn’t in there was my student ID,” Fulton said. “I always had that with me, but it wasn’t in there.”

Even so, Fulton is pleased and astonished to have his wallet back.

“But after that long, my gosh, it stayed in good shape,” Fulton said. “It’s hard to believe.”

 

 
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